Good Forestry in the Granite State:
Recommended Voluntary Forest Management Practices for New Hampshire
Table of Contents >> 7.2 Seeps << 7.3 Vernal Pools and the Surrounding Forest >> 7.4 Pine Barrens

7.3 VERNAL POOLS AND THE SURROUNDING FOREST

BACKGROUND

Vernal pools and the adjacent forest provide critical habitat for numerous wildlife species, but vernal pools are easily overlooked because they are small and dry seasonally.

Vernal pools form in shallow depressions or basins, and may appear as simple pools of water, with little or no vegetation growing in them. To be considered a vernal pool, the pool can’t have a permanently flowing outlet and it must hold water for at least two months after spring ice-out (See N.H. Administrative Rules Env-Wt 101 for the official state definition).

Vernal pools differ from other wetlands in that they have a seasonal cycle of flooding and drying—this cycle determines what wildlife use vernal pools. Many flood, then dry each year, though some pools may hold water for several years between drying.

Vernal pools are unique wetlands that provide critical habitat for several amphibian and reptile species. Fish are major predators in wetlands, but they are unable to maintain viable populations in vernal pools (because the pools dry up). As a result, vernal pools provide critical breeding habitat for amphibians whose tadpoles and larvae are especially vulnerable to fish predation. These species include spotted salamanders, blue-spotted/Jefferson salamanders, wood frogs, and the state-endangered marbled salamander.

Other non-amphibian species use vernal pools. Fairy shrimp, small crustaceans, require vernal pools for all life stages. State-endangered Blanding’s turtles and state-threatened spotted turtles feed on amphibian eggs in vernal pools and also use them for basking, mating and overwintering. These turtles also use vernal pools as stopover habitat when migrating, because pools provide moist refuge and abundant food. Many mammals, birds and snakes also forage at vernal pools, including song birds, wood ducks, ribbon snakes, bats, and raccoons.

While vernal pools offer essential habitat for many wildlife species, the forest surrounding the pools is equally important. For example, wood frogs and the salamanders that breed in vernal pools spend more than 11 months in the forest.

OBJECTIVE

Manage vernal pools and the surrounding forest to provide amphibian, invertebrate, and turtle habitat by maintaining pool hydrology, water quality, forest-floor integrity, and sufficient canopy cover.

CONSIDERATIONS

RECOMMENDED PRACTICES

CROSS REFERENCES

3.1 Timber Harvesting Systems; 4.1 Water Quality; 4.2 Wetlands; 6.3 Dead and Down Woody Material; 6.13 Wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Calhoun, A.J.K., and P. deMaynadier. 2004. Forestry Habitat Management Guidelines for Vernal Pool Wildlife. MCA Tech. Pap. No. 6, Metropolitan Conservation Alliance. Wildlife Conservation Society. 32 p.

Marchand M.(ed.). 2004. Identification and Documentation of Vernal Pools in New Hampshire. N.H. Fish and Game Dept., Concord, N.H. 70 p.

N.H. Administrative Rules Env-Wt 101. http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/Rules/state_agencies/env-wt100-800.html Accessed on May 27, 2010.

N.H. Dept. of Resources and Economic Development, Division of Forests and Lands. 2004. Best Management Practices for Erosion Control on Timber Harvesting Operations in New Hampshire. State of New Hampshire. http://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource000247_Rep266.pdf Accessed March 13, 2010.

RSA:212-A. Endangered Species Conservation Act. http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/XVIII/212-A/212-A-mrg.htm Accessed June 2, 2010.

Tarr, M., and K. Babbitt. 2009. The Importance of Hydroperiod in Wetland Assessment: A guide for community officials, planners, and natural resource professionals. UNH Cooperative Extension, Durham, N.H. 23 p.

7.2 Seeps << 7.3 Vernal Pools and the Surrounding Forest >> 7.4 Pine Barrens

Table of Contents